No Straight Lines

Deputy General Counsel Donald Brewster navigates a complicated regulatory landscape while meeting customer needs at mortgage lender PennyMac

Photo by Ussama Azam/ 

Donald Brewster knows how to zigzag. In his eleven years at national mortgage lender PennyMac, Brewster has learned to expertly work around the ambiguities and constant changes in the regulatory landscape while balancing the needs of customers and business partners.

Brewster graduated from Stanford University in 1979 with a degree in art history. He later enrolled at the University of Minnesota Law School, and after completing his JD in 1986, accepted a position as an associate at private legal practices in Riverside and Los Angeles, California.

In the following years, Brewster cultivated his knowledge of the housing finance industry, developing expertise in consumer finance regulations, compliance, securitization, e-commerce, and banking through leadership roles at Countrywide, GMAC/RFC, Conseco Finance, KB Home Mortgage, Freddie Mac, and Origin Financial Inc. Between 1999 and 2001, Brewster also taught advanced classes on e-commerce and consumer finance as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Brewster transitioned from Origen Financial Inc., where he served as senior vice president and general counsel for more than four years, to the deputy general counsel role at PennyMac in December 2008. PennyMac is a direct mortgage lender, dedicated to helping families across the United States find ways to stay in their homes. Because the company services a relatively small portfolio of nonperforming loans, PennyMac executives are able to develop customized programs as well as close-knit relationships with homeowners.

And Brewster is no different: in his capacity as deputy general counsel, he constantly communicates with PennyMac customers in order to facilitate their needs. But sometimes, he notes, meeting customer expectations is easier said than done. As he puts it, businesspeople often want to go from point A to point Z in a straight line.

But regulations are rarely that simple or logical, Brewster says. There are always new housing and lending regulations to look out for, continual shifts in existing regulations, and significant differences between the regulations of individual states. In other words, says the deputy general counsel, you can’t go in a straight line: you have to zigzag in order to reach your objective. And that is one reason why, Brewster says, his answer to nearly every legal question is simply, “It depends.”

At the same time, Brewster notes, those constant changes are what keep things exciting. During his tenure at PennyMac, the company has doubled in size, the legal department has expanded, the business environment has undergone considerable changes, and the market itself has transformed. And to Brewster, that’s exactly what makes his job so enjoyable.


Locke Lord LLP:

“Congratulations, Don Brewster, on your well-deserved ‎recognition. We have appreciated the opportunity to work with ‎you and our friends at PennyMac over the years and celebrate your longtime leadership in the mortgage industry.‎”

–Thomas Yoxall, Partner